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Islamabad

October 13, 2017

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Dr. Bile still lives in hearts of health professionals after 7 years

Dr. Bile still lives in hearts of health professionals after 7 years

Islamabad :Traditionally a venue for serious brainstorming on critical health challenges and natural disasters, the committee room of the World Health Organization’s Country Office in Pakistan Thursday resonated with cheerful voices and thunderous applause, and witnessed a standing ovation for Dr. Khalif Bile Mohamud—WHO’s longest-serving country representative in Pakistan—who was decorated with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Star of Distinction) in recognition of his stellar services for health development in the country.

Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar presented the award to Dr. Bile in the presence of a select gathering of public health professionals dominated by the Regional Director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region Dr. Mahmoud Fikri, Somalian Minister for Health Fowziya Abikar Nur, Somalian Ambassador Khadija Mohamed, Secretary Health Naveed Kamran Baloch, Director General Health Dr. Assad Hafeez, academicians, and staff members of WHO. Dr. Fikri also presented a memento to Dr. Bile for his enduring services to Pakistan.

This is the second time that Dr. Bile has been honoured with a national civil award from the government of Pakistan. He was previously decorated with the Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Bile said, “For me, the award epitomizes the awesome and tireless teamwork and public health victories that WHO and Pakistan have jointly accomplished—both big and small— though in public health, every gain is a big gain, which we shall always cherish.” He credited the award to WHO professionals and managers operating in Pakistan.

The ceremony started with WHO Representative Dr. Muhammad Assai Ardakani defining Dr. Bile’s era as one marked by scientific management and commitment. “During the last 10 months that I have been sitting in this office, there have been innumerable occasions when I ask myself, “If I were Dr. Bile, how would I do this?” he stated before moving on to read out a message from former Cabinet Secretary Ejaz Rahim, who said: “Dr. Bile’s contribution is two-fold: his great accessibility, and his ability to translate moral compassion into intense programmatic action.”

Paying tribute to Dr. Bile, Dr. Fikri said, “The WHO needs people like you to be in different locations, giving hope to the poor and sick,” he said. He described the Pakistan country programme as being both challenging and rewarding. “Dr. Bile has fulfilled his duty; he built strong communication channels. His association with Pakistan’s health system has demonstrated his role as a champion of public health,” he stated.

Expressing her views, Saira Afzal said, “When I assumed charge of my office in 2013, I heard a lot about Dr. Bile. Today, after seeing pictorial glimpses of his tremendous work in Pakistan, I realize that we have built our health system on the foundations laid by him.” She said, it is because of people like Dr. Bile that health systems are surviving and thriving. She saluted his services for Pakistan. “Our region must utilize your experience in whatever appropriate capacity we can,” she suggested to Dr. Fikri. Glimpses of Dr. Bile’s presence in Pakistan as a man who transformed commitment into actions was shared with the audience through a documentary prepared by Shahzad Alam Khan.

Fowziya Abikar Nur expressed how “proud Somalia is to have such a powerful scientific leader and a statesman.” She said, “In spite of being away from his country, he goes out of the way to offer assistance to us.”

Dr. Assad Hafeez stated how difficult it is to verbalize the feelings of the public health community for a personality as great as Dr. Bile’s. Listing some of his key achievements, Dr. Assad said, Dr. Bile was one of the masterminds of the Lady Health Workers Programme, which was piloted on a small scale in 1993 and grew into a force of 100,000 in a few years, transforming the coverage of health services in the population.

“Dr. Bile championed public health causes like tobacco control and the prevention and control of NCDs, and offered direction to the polio eradication programme. When the proposal of using LHWs for administration of polio drops met with stiff resistance, Dr. Bile’s able advocacy put the idea to fruition,” Dr. Assad added.

Dr. Bile expressed how humbled he was. He shared some of the strategic lessons that WHO learnt during his 16 years of service in Pakistan.“Great public health achievements are often milestones set by farsighted policy makers, he remarked, and while referring to the LHW programme, he said, “This programme taught us the meaning of community action for health and how valuable it is when transformed into a durable partnership at the grassroots level.”

Dr. Bile recollected the December 1993 Hepatitis E outbreak in Islamabad, which produced 4,000 cases of acute iceteric Hepatitis, creating panic in the capital. How the outbreak was permanently interrupted through closure of the water treatment plant which was supplying water from the heavily polluted Leh stream refreshed Dr. Bile’s leadership role in the crisis.

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